A researcher from Carnegir Mellon demonstrates that robots could become more useful if they are designed to ask for help from humans. This can be very helpful because the science of Robotics is still at its initial stages and Robots still struggle while performing even simple tasks.

Interactive Robots named ‘Cobots’:

If one visits the University of Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, a robot assistant leads to the Professor Manuela Veloso’s office. Reaching the elevator, the robot says: “Press 7 and Press my ‘done’ button as we reach that floor.” This might seem odd and the robot is quite unusual, called a Cobot. Veloso has manufactured this Robot in her lab. This Cobot looks like a laptop with a bunch of sensor wires sitting on the top of a barstool with wheels. It is not very sophisticated looking as it is without any hands or arms and does not possess am extensive vocabulary. A Cobot however, uses a simple and effective way to get past its limitations. When it doesn’t understand how to perform a function, like calling an elevator, finding something missing or picking up anything – it will just ask the closest human for assistance. And if no one’s around, it sends an email to the whole office for help.

Service Providing Robots with Human Help:

Veloso has been working with Robots since long and explains that programming a robot to understand speech or help it pick up an object is very difficult. So, she created robots which can ask for help whenever they are stuck. In the department of computer science, at Carnegir Mellon, many Cobots created by Veloso roam around carrying packages between offices and labs, as well as welcoming guests and taking them around. All of these Cobots together have provided more than 10,000 hours of service.

Future of Human-Robot Collaboration:

These robots seem a bit annoying and quirky as they keep asking for help but this also helps demonstrate how simple it is to collaborate between humans and machines. This would enable such robots to perform new features and become better assistants at workplace and homes. In industrial settings, this collaboration and interaction is already picking up pace. Scientists are now working on finding new ways for robots to collaborate in homes and provide services.

Some such prototypes are already a part of our world. ‘Tug’ is a robot created by the company Aethon, helps move equipment and medical supplies in the hospital. It does not need any sensors for navigation, instead it seeks human help when in need. The support team consisting of human members then pilots the robot towards its destination through a remote.

Usefulness of Cobots has led scientists to believe that a human interactive robot interface might become the most sought after and important fields of research in times to come.